Family

Dealing with teens going off the rails

Dear Diane, I had a baby girl when I was 18 and although the relationship didn’t work out, her father has mostly stayed involved in her life.

Dear Diane,

I had a baby girl when I was 18 and although the relationship didn’t work out, her father has mostly stayed involved in her life. She is now 18 herself and I have two younger children with my second partner. The problem is my eldest daughter is going off the rails – drinking, smoking and driving around at night looking for parties and I’m sure she’s probably over the limit.

She bought her car herself and she’s very proud of it but I’m terrified she’s going to kill herself or someone else. I want to stop her, but she won’t listen to me. I told her dad about it but he doesn’t believe me. He thinks she’s an angel. He has a lot of money and I think she acts sweet and innocent in front of him. But if he can’t help me, what other options do I have?

Island Girl

Dear Island Girl,

Well done for trying to enlist her dad’s help. I’m sorry he’s so blind to the dangers. As with all parenting issues, we need to consider when to support and when to put in boundaries. The most important thing is our emotional connection to our children. Be aware your daughter sees her two siblings living under one roof with two biological parents, whereas she has to find a way of belonging in two households.

Try everything possible to have a relationship with your daughter in which she trusts you. Any discussions about her lifestyle need to be along the lines of, “I’m worried that…” rather than threats or predictions. You’re well within your rights to disable her car so she can’t drive when she’s over the limit. She won’t be happy.

It will temporarily keep her safe but she will find sneaky ways to go out sober and drink elsewhere. But you do need more support. I would start with – without her knowing – talking to Police Youth Aid. They will be able to tell you what resources are available to you and, if you’re lucky, they will catch her driving illegally and act on it.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected]. Diane’s books are available in book shops.

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